In rough conditions at Mission Bay in San Diego, the men’s heavyweight crew team proved it could compete with the nation’s best this past weekend.

In the Copley Cup Grand Final at the San Diego Crew Classic, the first varsity eight boat finished fifth, posting a time of 6:18.99 for the 2,000-meter course. Although the team was hoping for a higher finish, it felt it held its own against the elite competition, which included the reigning national champion, the University of California.

“I was very pleased with how hard [the team] raced, and with their focus and determination,” heavyweight coach David Vogel said. “The varsity boat certainly showed that it can generate the same speed that is needed to compete with the top teams.”

California won the race with a time of 6:01.90, more than eight seconds better than second-place finisher Washington. The University of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — two top teams from Yale’s conference, the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges — rounded out the top five. The Quakers were four seconds faster than the Elis, and the Badgers were only two seconds ahead.

“I wasn’t really happy with [fifth place], but I am pleased that the performance that we had in the final showed us what we are capable of,” captain Scott Proper ’01.

In the final, the Bulldogs started out with impressive speed and were a close second to California at the 500-meter mark of the race. But the Bulldogs were not able to maintain that pace. One reason may have been the Elis’ position in an outer lane, where they faced rougher water, Vogel said. Proper, though, blamed poor technique for the slow down.

“We couldn’t keep it going throughout the end,” Proper said. “We had poor technique, making people over tired, so it caught up with us.”

The fifth-place finish was a significant improvement from a year ago, when the Bulldogs failed to qualify for the Copley Cup Grand Final. Vogel said the improvement was in part because of the maturation process of his team as well as the team’s work ethic.

“They are working even harder than last year, committing themselves to the athletic challenge of the sport,” Vogel said.

The men’s heavyweight junior varsity eight also had a successful weekend in San Deigo, finishing fourth in the Sharp Memorial Hospital Cup, behind the University of Washington, California and Penn.

In other action this weekend, the women’s crew team faced off against stiff competition in Ithaca, N.Y., battling Syracuse and Cornell.

The first varsity eight boat finished in second place with a time of 6:28.30 in its 2,000-meter race, falling to undefeated Syracuse by six seconds and besting Cornell by 16 seconds Saturday on the Cayuga Inlet.

Coming into the race, the Bulldogs knew the Syracuse first varsity boat, ranked No. 6 in the nation, would be a stern challenge. But they were unable to defeat the Orange women, who have won four straight first varsity eight races to start the season.

The second varsity eight was the only boat to win a race for the Elis, beating their Cornell and Syracuse counterparts handily. The Big Red captured all of the novice and varsity four races.

All three of Yale’s crew teams will be in action Saturday, with the heavyweights hosting Dartmouth. The women will also be competing at home, facing Dartmouth and Boston University in the Yale Class of ’85 Cup. The men’s lightweight team will be in Philadelphia Saturday to take on Penn and Columbia in the Dodge Cup.